NHS Scotland has recorded its worst ever emergency department waiting times amid warnings of the most challenging winter the service has ever faced.
The latest figures show that 63.1% of patients were seen and admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in A&E departments, a new low.
For the fifth week in a row more than 3,000 patients waited more than eight hours, and 1,350 waited more than 12 hours.
The Scottish Government’s target is for 95% of those attending in A&E to be dealt with within four hours.
The statistics, for the week ending October 30, continues the trend that has seen the proportion of emergency department attendances being seen within four hours dropping since the summer of 2021.
Current A&E attendance numbers are similar to pre-Covid levels, Public Health Scotland said.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine Scotland said the situation the NHS faces as it enters winter is “dire”.
“Month-on-month, more and more patients face longer and longer waits – that we know are associated with patient harm and even death,” vice president Dr John-Paul Loughrey said.
Across Scotland healthboards reported low figures. 42.7% were seen in four hours in NHS Forth Valley, only 49.1% in NHS Lanarkshire and only 60.2% in NHS Fife.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has estimated that long waits have contributed to hundreds of avoidable deaths in 2022.
Scotland’s health secretary blamed coronavirus, Brexit and inflation for making 2022 “the most challenging winter the NHS has ever faced”.
Two people died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow within four weeks of each other which staffing issues contributed to, it was revealed last week.
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Just when you think Humza Yousaf’s catastrophic stewardship of the NHS can’t get any worse, fresh stats come out to prove you wrong.
“What isn’t in doubt is that thousands of patients across Scotland continue to suffer unacceptable waits at our emergency departments – patients that could easily be you or your loved ones – and needless deaths will have occurred as a result.
“Patients at A&E are terrified – and so are over-stretched and dedicated frontline staff, who know that things will only get worse as winter pressures mount.”
Humza Yousaf said: “Covid continues to impact the delivery and performance of services and pandemic backlogs, Brexit-driven staff shortages, and inflation costs have all contributed to make this the most challenging winter the NHS has ever faced, as a result we will continue to see fluctuations in performance over the course of winter.
“Despite this, I am clear that A&E performance is not where I want it to be.
“We have seen a rise in overall attendances, the largest increase in four weeks, and delayed discharge continues to be the single biggest factor driving up A&E waits. We are striving to ensure people leave hospital without delay and receive the right care in the right setting, ensuring vital hospital beds are there for those who need them most. We all have a part to play in reducing pressure on services this winter and I would urge people to only attend A&E if their condition is an emergency.
“Our £600m winter plan which will see us recruit 1,000 new NHS staff, including up to 750 frontline nurses from overseas. Our £50m Urgent and Unscheduled Care Collaborative looks to drive down A&E waits through scheduled urgent appointments, Hospital at Home and directing people to most appropriate care.
“Our Near Me platform allows patients to attend virtual hospital and GP appointments from home and is already being used for around 40,000 consultations a month. Our new expansion of this scheme to community settings will further help to ease pressure on services, saving people time and money travelling to appointments.”
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